Homemade vegan energy gels

Homemade vegan energy gels

Since my last post I have made the final move to become fully vegan. If I'm honest its not been a difficult transition and I feel super comfortable with my decision. Being a dairy free vegetarian always felt a little like I was half way to where I needed to be and I am excited to have made that last step. I have heaps of great tasting vegan recipes that I have been working on and can't wait to share.

This post however is a little different to most as it will appeal to a niche audience... 

As I mentioned last time I am currently training for my first marathon. The big day is looming, just three weeks away now and the training has been tough, incredible but tough. I ran my further ever distance of 18 miles last weekend and have a 20 miler to tackle this Sunday before my tapering begins. 

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I wrote last time about the need for a good nutritious breakfast before the long runs and I feel I have that covered with a choice of almond milk porridge or homemade muesli with a good helping of fruit about two hours before I run then often a banana half a hour or so before setting out. As the runs started to get longer my attention turned to the need for fuel and hydration whilst running. In simple terms after approx 2 hours of running your body will run out of glycogen and you will need to refuel. (Taking on fuel before you hit 'empty' avoids crashing energy levels which are hard to recover from).

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Most people turn to processed energy blocks or gels to provide a quick burst of carbohydrates on the go. These are developed to provide a mixture of easy to absorb carbohydrates and electrolytes. I have certainly heard mixed reviews of these commercial products both in terms of taste and potential for stomach upset (not something you want half way through a marathon!). I felt certain that with a bit of experimenting I could come up with a homemade energy source of my own that ticked all the boxes.

Chia seeds have long been recognised an endurance runners best friend given their nutritional benefits so they seemed like a good place to start for making a gel. I have played around with various flavours and consistancies and this recipe is definitely my favourite so far. It's sweet without being sickly and also kind of refreshing due to the pineapple juice. You could of course vary the juice used. I have also used a combination of orange and lemon juice to good effect. the seeds and dates need to be soaked so best to do the quick prep the night before if making fresh.

In terms of nutritional information for this gel vs a commercial gel I'm not 100% sure but have tried to roughly match the carbohydrate levels and electrolyte mix. As I say, I am no expert but these seem to have worked for me and I have done a fair bit of reading around the subject as was determined to be as prepared as possible for the race. Online recipes for both gels and electrolyte drinks vary hugely so I have developed what I feel to be the right level for me. 

I generally take 1 gel after 1 hour of running and then another gel at each following hour point. I always follow gels with some sips of water to aid digestion and also carry a high energy trail mix in my running belt for if I feel I need anything else in between. I tend to make a batch of gels and separate them into individual ziplock bags. They are easy to transport that way and you can just bite the corner off the bag when you want to take one. You can also freeze any surplus and take them frozen on your run as your body heat will soon melt them down. The only downside I can find is their appearance. There's a good reason commercial gels come in fancy foil packets, sludgy brown goo is never going to be the most appetising!

Ingredients

- 2 tablespoons of chia seeds
- 6 tablespoons pineapple juice
- 4 medjpool dates (soaked)
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup or agave (if required)
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
(note the juice can be changed for any fruit juice or other liquid such as coconut water)

Method

1. Soak chia seeds in pineapple juice overnight or for at least a couple of hours
2. Soak dates in enough water to cover overnight. (if short of time use boiling water as will soften dates quicker)
3. Add all the ingredients including soaking water to a food processor or blender and blitz to desired consistency. If the gel seems too thick you can thin down with more water or juice.
4. Separate mixture into 4 portions (I use mini ziplock bags) and store in the fridge. they can also be frozen for future use.

Please do try them and let me know how you get on. Any feedback or other recipes are gratefully received. Happy running.

Marathon Post Update!! 

Well it's been a few weeks now since the Brighton Marathon and i'm very happy to say I had a fabulous day. Its a distance that needs respect and theres no denying it was incredibly tough. I ran with a wonderful friend and we stuck together for the whole route - I'm not sure I'd have made it without her! It was a warm day, the crowd support was incredible and I finished (if a little slower than I'd hoped for) with a huge smile on my face. Recovery has been good and i've already been back out running, completing a trail half this Sunday. I truly believe that good diet and nutrition plays a huge part in this.

I have already signed up for next year and can't wait to be part of such a fabulous event again. 

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